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Fox Searchlight & UK’s Ingenious Commit To Financing and Distributing British Films

London-based Ingenious Media, the private equity fund which backed Twentieth Century Fox’s Avatar, has struck a deal with Fox Searchlight to make between 2 to 3 movies in the $10M-15M range. Ingenious could inject up to $14 million annually into the deal, providing 20%-30% equity per movie. Fox Searchlight will guarantee U.S. distribution, the Holy Grail for most UK indie producers. Both companies worked together most recently on 127 Hours, Never Let Me Go, and the forthcoming The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel, which Fox Searchlight will release in the Fall. Ingenious has backed more than 30 Fox movies but until now under a loose arrangement, financing between 5 and 10 of Fox Filmed Entertainment’s movies each year. Recent investments include Gulliver’s Travels, Unstoppable, The A-Team, and Percy Jackson.

James Clayton, CEO of Ingenious Investments, tells me he first approached Fox Searchlight presidents Steve Gilula and Nancy Utley and production president Claudia Lewis back in November about formalising their relationship. “The UK independent sector has been going through a very tough time I told them I think there’s something more ambitious we can do in the UK. Given our position, we get to see pretty much every UK project in development. And Fox Searchlight wanted to make a greater commitment to the UK business.” The new deal, notes Clayton, takes advantage of “Fox Searchlight’s great taste, superb marketing and the economics of global distribution [which] are much more interesting from a financing perspective than … Read More »

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CAA Signs Director Mark Romanek

Mike Fleming

Feature and video director Mark Romanek has signed with CAA. Romanek, who just directed the Fox Searchlight adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go with Andrew Garfield, Carey Mulligan and Keira Knightley, had been repped by WME. Romanek previously directed One Hour Photo and Static, and has helmed music videos with the likes of David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Red Hot Chili Peppers, REM and Madonna.

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‘King’s Speech’ Sweeps Brit Indie Awards

The Weinstein Co movie won 5 British Independent Film Awards at the ceremony in London’s East End tonight, including Best Film, Best Actor (Colin Firth), Best Supporting Actress (Helena Bonham Carter), Best Supporting Actor (Geoffrey Rush), and Best Screenplay. Micro-budget sci-film Monsters won 3 awards: Best Director (Gareth Edwards), Best Achievement in Production and Best Technical Achievement, while Carey Mulligan was named best actress for Never Let Me Go.

BEST BRITISH INDEPENDENT FILM
THE KING’S SPEECH

BEST DIRECTOR
GARETH EDWARDS (MONSTERS)

THE DOUGLAS HICKOX AWARD [BEST DEBUT DIRECTOR]
CLIO BARNARD (THE ARBOR)

BEST SCREENPLAY
DAVID SEIDLER (THE KING’S SPEECH)

BEST ACTRESS
CAREY MULLIGAN (NEVER LET ME GO)

BEST ACTOR
COLIN FIRTH (THE KING’S SPEECH)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS
HELENA BONHAM CARTER (THE KING’S SPEECH)

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR
GEOFFREY RUSH (THE KING’S SPEECH)

MOST PROMISING NEWCOMER
JOANNE FROGGATT (IN OUR NAME)

BEST ACHIEVEMENT IN PRODUCTION
MONSTERS

RAINDANCE AWARD
SON OF BABYLON

BEST TECHNICAL ACHIEVEMENT
GARETH EDWARDS – VISUAL EFFECTS (MONSTERS)

BEST DOCUMENTARY
ENEMIES OF THE PEOPLE

BEST BRITISH SHORT
BABY

BEST FOREIGN FILM
A PROPHET

THE RICHARD HARRIS AWARD (for outstanding contribution by an actor to British Film)
HELENA BONHAM CARTER

THE VARIETY AWARD
LIAM NEESON

THE SPECIAL JURY PRIZE
JENNE CASAROTTO

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Awards Roundup: Honors For ‘The King’s Speech,’ Annette Bening

The King’s Speech scored eight British Independent Film Award nominations, including Best Film, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor and two Best Supporting Actor nominations. The other nominees for Best Film include Four Lions, Kick-Ass, Monsters and Never Let Me Go. In the acting categories, Jim Broadbent (Another Year), Riz Ahmed (Four Lions), Colin Firth (The King’s Speech), Scoot McNairy (Monsters) and Aidan Gillen (Treacle Junior) received nominations. The Best Actress race is between Manjinder Virk (The Arbor), Ruth Sheen (Another Year), Andrea Riseborough (Brighton Rock), Sally Hawkins (Made in Dagenham) and Carey Mulligan (Never Let Me Go). Winners will be announced on December 5th. The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will present Annette Bening with the American Riviera Award. She’ll be honored at the Arlington Theatre on January 28.

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Honors For James Franco, Carey Mulligan

The Santa Barbara International Film Festival will present James Franco with the Outstanding Performance of the Year Award for his performance in 127 Hours. The festival runs January 27-February 6. Carey Mulligan will receive the Breakthrough Performance Award at the Palm Springs International Film Festival, which runs January 6-17. She’s being honored for her roles in Never Let Me Go and Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps.

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London Adds Premieres, Sets Galas And Sidebars

The BFI London Film Festival has announced the rest of its galas and sidebars on top of opening film Never Let Me Go and closing film 127 Hours. The festival has added a diverse roster of films ranging from the award-tipped The King’s Speech, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham-Carter to Darren Aronofsky’s rave reviewed Black Swan. Over 16 days the festival will screen a total of 197 features and 112 shorts, including 11 world, 23 international and 33 European premieres. The fest runs from October 13-28.

Julianne Moore, Colin Firth, Hilary Swank, Natalie Portman, Helena Bonham Carter, Naomie Harris, Julian Schnabel and Christy Turlington Burns will be coming to London to promote their movies.

GALAS & SPECIAL SCREENINGS
The King’s Speech, with Colin Firth, Geoffrey Rush and Helena Bonham Carter; Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan, with Natalie Portman; Mike Leigh’s Another Year; Neds, directed by Peter Mullan; The Kids Are Alright, starring Julianne Moore and Annette Bening; and Cannes Palme D’Or winner, Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Other highlights include Conviction, starring Hilary Swank and Sam Rockwell; Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Biutiful starring Javier Bardem; West Is West, the follow up to East is East; Xavier Beauvois’ Of Gods and Men; and Julian Schnabel’s Miral with Freida Pinto. In The First Grader an 84-year-old Kenyan finally starts school, and Africa United features a group of youngsters who trek across Africa to reach the World Cup.

FILM ON Read More »

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‘Black Swan’ Dances Into Telluride While Sony Pictures Classics Duo Struts Stuff

Pete Hammond

TELLURIDE: After its sizzling debut in Venice earlier in the week, Fox Searchlight’s Black Swan continued steamrolling through this early awards season with its “unofficial” North American premiere Sunday afternoon  billed by the Telluride Film Festival as a “sneak preview.” At the start of the psychological terror film set in a contemporary ballet company, a festival rep told the audience they were the lucky ones as hundreds still lined up outside were turned away (fortunately there are at least two other screenings coming up). But you could feel the anticipation with curious film fans storming the 600 + seat Palm Theatre, Telluride’s largest venue.

Director Darren Aronofsky, making his first-ever visit to the fest, began his introduction by saying he had spent the earlier part of his day walking up to the waterfall “but it was a terrible hike”. He mentioned he and star Natalie Portman (not here) had talked about doing this project for almost a decade. So was the wait worth it? This crowd seemed to think so although, unlike Venice, it didn’t get a standing ovation (they may have been too stunned to stand). Buzz afterward was strong for Aronofsky’s  macabre vision of an artistically possessed ballerina pushing herself beyond the limits, and particularly for Portman’s dazzling tour de force that makes her an instant leading contender in every Best Actress race. During final credits, one shaken woman was overheard saying she was going outside to “smoke about 5 cigarettes”.

At the post-Q&A  Aronofsky, joined by his composer Clint Mansell and producer Scott Franklin, said he and Portman first met at the now defunct Times Square Howard Johnson’s to discuss the project about 9 years ago, but it took this long to finally come to fruition. He noted his original idea was to spin off Dostoevsky’s The Double and then after seeing a production of Swan Lake knew he had the beginnings of something grand (guignol). As noted during the Q&A, the movie oozes sexuality with one “fantasy” lesbian encounter between Portman and co-star Mila Kunis really steaming up this rocky mountain arena.  This is a hard R, folks. As with The Wrestler, there will be lots of Oscar talk  and probably some speculation that it might all be a bit too much for some of the older Academy members, but I have a hunch this will play just fine on Wilshire Blvd. It’s bravura film making, melodramatic and riveting entertainment with great handheld camerawork from Matthew Libatique and an award-caliber cast including Portman, Kunis,  an intense Vincent Cassel as the ballet company’s taskmaster director and Barbara Hershey as her domineering mother.

With two other titles–Never Let Me Go and 127 Hours–in addition to Black Swan, Fox Searchlight hosted a late night party Saturday and has a strong presence here. But they but can’t hold a candle to Sony Pictures Classics, which has 5 movies showing (adding yet another 4 for their trek next week to Toronto). Last night, SPC co-Presidents Michael Barker and Tom Bernard threw their annual La Marmotte dinner to celebrate the quintet that includes Mike Leigh’s Another Year, the likely French Oscar entry Of  Gods And Men (Grand Prize winner at this year’s Cannes), Charles Ferguson’s devastating financial meltdown doc Inside Job, Stephen Frear’s very well-received English comedy Tamara Drewe, and Sylvain Chomet’s beautifully animated The Illusionist, based on an un-produced screenplay by the late, great Jacques Tati. I saw the latter earlier today and predict it’s certain to put Chomet, previously nominated for The Triplets Of Bellville, right in the heart of this year’s animated race no matter if 3 or 5 nominees qualify. In fact with this Telluride group alone ,the company could easily find itself in the unique position of having a nominee in each of Oscar’s key film categories:  Picture, Documentary, Foreign Language Film and Animated Feature. Barker and Bernard are very high on their slate and told me they think they have particularly good Best Picture shots: Another Year, opening at the end of December; Made In Dagenham (Nov 19 but premiering first in Toronto), a stirring true story about the fight waged for equal pay by a group of English female factory workers in the early 70’s, with acting contenders Sally Hawkins, Miranda Richardson and Bob Hoskins; and even Get Low (currently on over 500 screens) where they have high hopes for Robert Duvall, Bill Murray and Sissy Spacek. They  will be strongly campaigning several other actors including Another Year’s standout star Lesley Manville, who attended last night’s dinner. SPC could be repped as well in the Golden Globe comedy or musical race with Tamara Drewe. While other studio owned specialty divisions continue to be in meltdown mode, this one somehow seems to keep thriving, largely thanks to smart awards-time strategizing. This year appears to be no different. Read More »

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Danny Boyle Comes Back To Telluride Film Festival As Oscar Hopefuls Start Screening

Pete Hammond

TELLURIDE: Danny Boyle says there are still a couple of things to “figure out” before a final print can be struck. But the Oscar-winning director returned today to the Galaxy Theatre at the Telluride Film Festival with the “unofficial” world premiere of 127 Hours – his first film since Slumdog Millionaire took home 8 Oscars just 1 1/2 years ago. It’s a good luck spot for Boyle as he had just finished Slumdog three days before its Telluride premiere, which became the launching pad for what would become an awards season blowout for the popular movie.

It was déjà vu this afternoon for me and others who were there that Saturday two Tellurides ago in the exact same venue. Today, the house was packed for both the 127 Hours screening and the Q&A that followed featuring Boyle, his producer Christian Colson, star James Franco, and the real life inspiration for the film, Aron Ralston, whose memoir Between A Rock And A Hard Place was the basis for Boyle’s and Simon Beaufoy’s adaptation. It’s about the harrowing true story of a young canyoneer who gets trapped in a deep narrow cave for 127 hours before extracting himself from a crushing boulder by cutting off his right arm with a small knife. And it has been expertly brought to the screen by the director who finds a way to put “urgency” in every frame despite the fact that the entire film is basically one man vs. the elements. It’s a tour-de-force for Franco, virtually never off screen in the same way Spencer Tracy triumphed in the similarly spare The Old Man And The Sea (1958). Franco’s performance could put him in contention for a best actor Oscar nod just as Tracy’s did over 50 years ago. It should be noted that Franco’s “farewell to arm” scene is graphic and not for the squeamish.

Using fast cutting, flashbacks and two cinematographers, Boyle makes this thing cook even though he ironically admitted afterwards that he’s really an “urban” filmmaker, hates the countryside, and thinks most “wilderness films are boring”. That initially made the outdoorsman Ralston wonder why Boyle wanted to film the story in the first place. Seeing it nearly finished for the first time today, Ralston says he was in tears through the second half, right from the moment the “sunlight” poked through.

For distributor Fox Searchlight, which plans a November release, 127 Hours is just one of three awards season players they have brought to Telluride. Friday night, Never Let Me Go stars Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, director Mark Romanek, screenwriter Alex Garland and the novelist Kazuo Ishiguro, all turned up to introduce the first-ever public unveiling of this highly unusual sci-fi film dealing with themes of love and death. It’s distinguished by superb work from its promising young cast, led by Mulligan and Garfield, who all drew special praise from its very pleased author Ishiguro who described the film version of his best seller as a tremendous showcase for new British acting talent who are “inventing a style all their own”. Romanek (One Hour Photo) told the nearly sold-out crowd he had two dreams: to make this book into a film, and to come to Telluride. On Sunday, Searchlight’s Black Swan (December 1) and troupe blow into town direct from their Venice triumph for the unofficial North American premiere, billed here as a “sneak preview”.

Earlier Saturday, at the Chuck Jones theatre, a packed house caught the first screening here of The Weinstein Company’s Best Picture contender and Thanksgiving release, The King’s Speech. Afterwards the crowd greeted director Tom Hooper and stars Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush with a standing ovation. This stylishly entertaining, brilliantly acted period piece about the stuttering problems of England’s King George VI (father of the current Queen Elizabeth) and his relationship with a speech therapist is, to put it simply, catnip for Academy voters. No doubt Harvey’s already got one of the ten Best Picture slots locked up for this. Firth will be the recipient of a special tribute to his career Sunday night. Read More »

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Telluride Sets Fest Film Program

Mike Fleming

While Toronto International Film Festival, Sundance, Venice and Cannes sets film schedules well in advance, Telluride always springs its fest lineup at the last moment. Here it is:

37th TELLURIDE FILM FESTIVAL ANNOUNCES 2010 FESTIVAL LINEUP

Telluride, CO – Telluride Film Festival (September 3-6, 2010), presented by the National Film Preserve is proud to announce its 2010 Festival program. Twenty-four new feature films presented by their creators in the Festival’s main program; six programs curated by 2010 Festival Guest Director Michael Ondaatje; twenty-five new short films; plus thirteen documentaries screening in the Backlot program. Celebrating works from over twenty countries, Telluride Film Festival opens Friday, September 3 and runs through Monday, September 6, 2010.

THE ‘SHOW’

37th Telluride Film Festival is pleased to present the following new feature films to play in the ‘SHOW’:

· A LETTER TO ELIA (d. Martin Scorsese and Kent Jones, U.S., 2010)

· ANOTHER YEAR (d. Mike Leigh, U.K., 2010)

· BIUTIFUL (d. Alejandro González Iñárritu, Mexico, 2010)

· CARLOS (d. Olivier Assayas, France, 2010)

· CHICO AND RITA (d. Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal Spain-Cuba, 2010)

· THE FIRST GRADER (d. Justin Chadwick, U.K., 2010)

· THE FIRST MOVIE (d. Mark Cousins, U.K., 2009)

· HAPPY PEOPLE: A YEAR IN THE TAIGA (d. Dmitry Vasyukov with Werner Herzog, Germany, 2010)

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‘Never Let Me Go’ Opening London Festival

Keira Knightley and Carey Mulligan are expected to make Red Carpet appearances on October 13th because their film Never Let Me Go is opening the London Film Festival. Mark Romanek (One Hour Photo) has directed Alex Garland’s (Sunshine) adaptation of Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel. Fox releases the film in the UK on January 14. Knightley, Mulligan, and Andrew Garfield (the new Spider-Man) play three schoolfriends who realise their idyllic English boarding school hides a dark secret…

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